April 3, 2013
Long Beach, Calif. -
Continuing Big West Conference play, Long Beach State plays three league contests this week in a weekend series on the road at Pacific. The series starts on Friday at 6 p.m., with a Saturday game following scheduled for 2 p.m. and a finale Sunday at 1 p.m. All Dirtbag games can be followed through live audio or Gametracker at www.longbeachstate.com.
Big West Action
This weekend marks the second week of Big West action, where the Dirtbags currently stand one game out of first place after taking two of three from Cal State Northridge. After falling 10-5 in the series opener, the Dirtbags bounced back for a 14-2 victory over the Matadors on Friday, including an inside-the-park home run in a 4-for-5 day from Michael Hill. Long Beach State then won the series on Saturday, putting up seven runs of support for freshman David Hill, who collected his first collegiate win Sunday.
Pacific is in its final year in the Big West, moving to the West Coast in 2013-14 after spending 41 years as a member of the PCAA/Big West, leaving UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State as the only founding members remaining in the Big West. The two teams have played annually since 1985, a streak likely to end in 2014.
Picked to finish last in the Big West before the season, the Tigers had a highlight of beating then No. 2 Arkansas at the Surprise Classic in Arizona, but entered last week with a 7-12 record, before falling in three blowout losses to the Titans and losing 4-2 Tuesday to Fresno State. The Tigers have a 5.67 team ERA, though starters Cory Popham and Michael Benson each have ERA's under four, with Popham at 2.14 with a 2-1 record and Benson at 3.43 with a 2-2 record. Offensively, first baseman Erik Lockwood leads the team with a .33 batting average, while catcher Jason Taassaas is second, hitting .306. All-time, Long Beach State holds a 78-24 record against the Tigers, and the Dirtbags won the series last season at Blair Field.
In league play, the Dirtbags rank second offensively behind a few standout performers. Junior Michael Hill is leading the league with four triples this season, and is third in the Big West in slugging percentage at .581, adding four doubles and two home runs while topping the Dirtbags lineup with a .372 batting average. Just behind him is junior Jeff McNeil, who leads the Dirtbags with 35 hits, seventh in the conference in 109 at-bats. Also leading a conference category is sophomore Richard Prigatano, who has ten doubles, slugging .466 for Long Beach State while batting .320, third on the team with a team-high 16 RBI, just in front of junior Ino Patron, who has 15 RBI while hitting .286.
Long Beach State will continue to use a solidified rotation, as the trio of Shane Carle, Jake Stassi, and David Hill have strengthened the rotation for the Dirtbags. Carle in particular has been outstanding, locking down the Friday night role for Long Beach State, despite a poor start a week ago. Carle still leads the team in strikeouts and innings pitched, and held an ERA under 2.00 for the season until last Friday's start. Jake Stassi has now had three straight starts longer than six innings pitched as the Saturday starter after moving from the bullpen. In those same three consecutive starts, Stassi has allowed just a single run in each start, coming against Wichita State, Cal State Fullerton, and Cal State Northridge. Finally, freshman David Hill had a solid outing against Cal State Fullerton two weeks ago before collecting his first collegiate win last Saturday, striking out a career high five batters over 6.1 innings against the Matadors.
Scheduling The Best
With the bulk of non-conference play concluded, the schedule for the Dirtbags rates as the No. 35 schedule in total strength according to FullySports.com, and much of the team's record problems can be attributed to a 2-10 record against ranked teams. The Dirtbags played six games against two teams currently ranked in the Top 5 and faced five ranked foes in total before the beginning of Big West play. Vanderbilt, Cal State Fullerton and UCLA remain in the Top 10, and both Arizona State and Arizona were ranked when they played LBSU. Coming up, the team still has series against the Titans, UC Irvine and Cal Poly who are all ranked entering conference action.
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